Last week, we introduced you to novelist Anne Clare from the Pacific Northwest. She's a teacher, a musician, a wife and mother, and somehow she manages to find time to research and write novels set in the World War II era. She is the author of Whom Shall I Fear? and the recently released Where Shall I Flee?
Dennis L Peterson: Welcome back, Anne. We're honored to have you join us to resume our conversation about your books and how you do it all! Last week, you explained how you manage to prioritize your various responsibilities to find time to research and write. Today, I'd like to dig a little deeper into the process by which you do those tasks.
I love how your blog address (https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/) tells us when you carve out time to do your research and writing! I've noticed that your blog postings indicate that, although your writing is fiction, you do an amazing amount of research about nonfiction topics. Would you describe your research process?
Anne Clare: Thank you! I'm glad that the research shows!
I've done a fair amount of general reading on World War II since I started writing in the era and collected all sorts of tidbits of information as I go. Having a broad idea of the whens and wheres not only gives me inspiration for plot points but also helps me better understand the context of my characters' lives.
I particularly like to find eye-witness accounts. Since my newest book takes place around the Anzio beachhead, I gathered memoirs of nurses who served in the area, such as Avis Schorer's A Half Acre of Hell and June Wandry's Bedpan Commando as well as Audi Murphy's To Hell and Back and Bill Mauldin's Up Front. The opportunity to view the places I'm writing about through the eyes of the people who served there is invaluable.
More general history books are helpful as well, like Rick Atkinson's excellent The Day of Battle. The U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Naval History and Heritage Command websites have tons of tremendous resources available regarding the American side of the military activities.
Of course, general overviews will only take you so far. In my second or third draft of my new book, I read through and looked for everything in the manuscript that I wasn't sure about--popular songs of the era, clothing materials, dates, climate and terrain, hair styles, and so on. I used the "Comment" function in Word to mark ALL of them. Then, I started digging.
Other people are also tremendous resources. I've been looking into the history of Washington [State] during the war, a place where I've actually been! A couple of ladies in my church lived in Bremerton, Washington, home of the Naval Shipyard, during the war, and they've shared some fascinating memories. The curator of a Bremerton museum has also been helpful in pointing me toward some great books.
Some pieces of research are hard to pin down, and I have eliminated plot points when I couldn't find the facts to back them up. I often end up with more information than I can possibly use. That's where the blog comes in handy. It's a great place to share the things I learn that just won't fit organically into my book!
DLP: Your process certainly illustrates how much research goes into writing even a work of fiction long before you begin writing. That brings us to your writing process. What goes into producing one of your books, from initial idea to finished book?
AC: Well, first, I must get an initial idea. That has looked different each time. For the first book, I started with a final scene. For the second one, I just had a place and the idea of a POW escape. The third, which is still in process, started with a title, "Pearl Harbor Ghosts."
I then tell myself that I'll do all of the research first this time. I find, however, that the research continues throughout the process! Then I start drafting the story. During the drafting, I inevitably run into a lot of snags where I need to look things up.
Once I've completed the first draft, I go back and mark up the things that I need to look up. I edit and research. (I repeat this step many, many times.)
When I hit a wall with the manuscript where I just can't think of anything else to fix, I pass it off to beta readers. Then I fret and check my inbox constantly until I get comments back from them. I compile their comments into a comprehensive list and get back to editing. Edit. Research. Edit. It continues ad nauseum!
Then I pass the book on to an editor. I try not to look at my manuscript draft until it comes back from the editor. When the editor returns it, I edit some more and listen to the book using the "Read Aloud" function on my laptop.
Next, I send the book to the formatter. Usually, I'll panic when I realize I missed "something," then I beg the formatter to fix it for me and thank her profusely afterward.
Last, I do a final read-through on Amazon and publish it!
DLP: What are your greatest struggles as an author? And what are your greatest rewards?
AC: Hands down, my greatest struggle these days is finding time to write. Since fall got into full swing this year, I haven't been able to start typing until the children are down, and I end up dozing off over my keyboard!
I also struggle to find the balance between fact and fiction. There is so much real history that I'd like to incorporate into my stories, but it's not possible to squeeze it all in. Then there are so many interesting plot twists to try, but keeping everything plausible historically is hard. There's always one more thing to look up, one more research rabbit hole to go down. It's hard to know when to stop!
My greatest reward? There are so many! The satisfaction of rereading something I've created and enjoying it. The thrill of a new character taking shape and taking on his or her own personality. The triumph of pinning down a pesky piece of information that I've been hunting for. The feedback from kind readers. Writing isn't an easy fit into my personal life, but the joys of it keep me going!
DLP: One final question: What do you read for fun, and what are you reading right now?
AC: My schedule is so tight that I don't do many things "just for fun." I read a fair amount of middle grade and young adult literature while picking out novels for my students or children. I love Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. I've always enjoyed fantasy and sci-fi. But I avoid fiction during the school year. (Once I get engaged in a novel, I won't sleep until I finish it, which presents a problem when I need to be lucid enough to explain pre-algebra!) I generally have a few books going. There's always some World War II history on my bedside stand. Right now that includes MacArthur's Spies by Peter Eisner and Shadows in the Jungle by Larry Alexander.
DLP: Thank you, Anne, for sharing with us the process, the struggles, and the rewards of your writing life. I hope your current book does well and wish you well as you work on the next one.
Readers, you can learn more about Anne and her works at her blog site (https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/). And please check out her books on Amazon: Whom Shall I Fear? and the recently released Where Shall I Flee?